By Angela Bronner Helm
Last night at the tony Cipriani 42nd Street, Earvin “Magic” Johnson launched his cable television network, ASPIRE, a new channel focused on African-American programming. Celebs from the entertainment and sports worlds came out in support of ASPIRE, which is owned by Magic Johnson Enterprises, with Johnson serving as the network’s chairman and chief executive.
In a partnership with the Gospel Music Channel (GMC), the Atlanta-based company will be available in more than 7 million homes on Comcast’s digital basic tier. In line with delivering “enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families,” the initial programming line up includes reruns of The Bill Cosby Show, I Spy, Soul Train, The Flip Wilson Show, and Julia. Also on the schedule are documentaries, films from the American Black Film Festival, music videos, and gospel performances. ASPIRE expects to be available in over 12 million homes by the end of 2012 and in 20 to 30 million homes by the end of 2013.
The Johnson-backed network was selected by Comcast from among 100 candidates as one of four new minority-owned independent networks to be distributed through it’s digital basic tier. It comes on the heels of an agreement Comcast reached with the FCC last year. ASPIRE was scheduled to be the first, with Comcast also airing channels from music mogul Sean Combs and director Robert Rodriguez.
“It has been a long-held dream of mine to launch a television network that offers viewers inspiring and positive portrayals of African-American lifestyles, accomplishments, and talent, while also creating opportunities for the next generation of artists and storytellers,” said Johnson.